Monday, February 25, 2013

No need to defend Catherine Cambridge, she can take care of herself

This past week there has been some amazing commentary about Hilary Mantel's lecture, Royal Bodies. Everything from how people have ignored the context of her speech to defending Catherine's honor. Those who defend cherry picking from Catherine's past: her university education (she reads!), the positive public reaction to her appearances (she's not plastic, she's warm!), she dated William for nine years (she is ambitious - a sign of character). All cited as evidence of how wrong Mantel is about her. A veritable litany of 'everyone likes Catherine, what is your problem.' Even Prime Minister David Cameron felt compelled to defend her. Looking back on the coverage, if there is anything that this week of debate has reinforced for me, number one is:

Do NOT criticize Catherine in any way, shape or form (even if you did not intend your words to be critical of her).

It's true. Had Hilary Mantel's speech included words of open praise about how wonderful Catherine is and everything she touches turns to gold, it would have gotten lost in the pile of praise. Mantel would have been lauded, a successful author not breaking the cardinal rule about writing or even speaking about Catherine.  Which is:

Do NOT criticize Catherine in any way, shape or form (even if you did not intend your words to be critical of her).

You will live to regret it. Your appearance will be dragged through the mud. You will be called jealous not to mention blamed for people taking further interest in what you have to say by buying your books. Forget Mantel's previous success, it is all part of a devious plan, right?

The defensive, knee-jerk reaction to the speech made me think. This is not the first time Catherine has been criticized, nor will it be the last. Why does Catherine need to be defended? Certainly she is a nice, polite person but she is not a sacred cow. And while she may not be allowed to respond in kind, she should be used to criticism by now. According to some, she needed a thick skin to get Diana's ring on her finger.

Instead of releasing a statement that she was 'disappointed' about Mantel's lecture (if she was even aware of it to begin with), Catherine did what she does best. She let her appearance speak for her. A much heralded and anticipated public appearance became a moment to prove Mantel wrong. Catherine - so strong, keeping her head up, calm, collected, stylish, not betraying a flicker of irritation at Mantel's words. Smoothing the dress over her 'royal bump,'' as if to say, 'I know this is what you want to see.'

It was a masterful performance. Appearing calm, collected, stylish, ignoring the controversy of the moment. Catherine does it so well. People remark about it all the time, calling it 'not putting a foot wrong.' During this recent appearance did we expect anything different from her? Wouldn't she have smiled and patted her bump the same way, regardless?

If she had any thoughts about Mantel's speech she wasn't telling us. She has no voice of her own, and she isn't expect to. Opinion is divided on why but the blame is usually laid at the doorstep of everyone but her. No voice to respond to criticisms about her work ethic. True Catherine is just starting out in her royal life, she cannot be expected to become a respected, hard working member of the royal family overnight. But looking at the coverage focusing on her pregnancy and what she wears, you would think those are the only thing she has going for her.

Surely Catherine must be aware of this? Isn't it time she did something about it? Why not let her work speak for her?

When she lets her work speak for her instead of what she wears or who she is married to, then she will provide people with less obvious ammunition to criticize her. Then she will no longer be exclusively portrayed as someone pretty whose main role is providing an heir and supporting the British fashion industry. The interest in her fashions is understandable but in the long term, how fulfilling will it be for Catherine on a personal level?

As if responding to the criticism about her work ethic, Clarence House released more specific information about the meetings and work she does behind closed doors. It is a long overdue move in the right direction. Announcing more patronages and openly supporting them more frequently is another. It is not good enough to tell us she is working behind the scenes. She needs to show us. Then there will be no need for others to defend her. She will have shown she can take care of herself.

© Marilyn Braun 2013

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.


Rman said...

Hi Marilyn,

It's a funny situation. I think Catherine is a strong woman and I think she has proven that. I'm sure she has heard about Hilary's thoughts about her but probably don't care because Hilary don't really know her personally. I just don't thinl members of the royal family take stuff like that to heart.

I think Hilary Mantel's thoughts was of her own opinion. The royals are used to criticism but I think the British royals take a harder and unnecessary beating in the press than the other European royals. I think it's very unfair and silly.

Catherine can't do anything about the amount of attention that's paid to her wardrobe. The press will pay attention to that no matter what. The royals have to look good on their job. It's been like that for decades.

I no doubt that Catherine is working hard aa a senior member of the royal family. I think the main issue people are having is with that William & Catherine don't do as much public official engagements because they're not full-time members of the royal family yet.

William has mentioned that it's getting hard to balance out their military life and royal life. They work around the SAR schedual and that schedual can be crazy at times.

We're suppose to hear (officially) if they will decide to stay in the military or become working royals full-time soon. Catherine has some official engagements coming up this week and I think she will continue to do what she can before that baby arrives. I would like to see them do more official engagements and take on more roles with the "Firm."

We just have to be a little more patient to see what will happen.

Marilyn Braun said...

Hi Rman,

Yes, let's hope that they take on more royal duties. I think that with her high profile, Catherine has a lot of power to bring attention to causes. I doubt Grimsby was on most people's radar until she visited it.

It's a bit misleading for the media to say she will undertake a 'string of engagements' and then have them spread so far apart. It's like a lot of stops and starts when she should just get going. I think that's the main reason people are becoming impatient with her.

That said, when she does do things she gets very little credit for it. There is always some sort of reason to tear her down. Today for her visit to Grimsby: 'Why is she late? Why is she taking a helicopter when she could take the train? Isn't it good enough for her?' and other nonsense like that. In a way she can't win but that shouldn't stop her from making more of an effort.

We shall see what the next few months bring before Baby Cambridge arrives! Fingers crossed she uses them wisely.